This week we’re re-releasing a new program call the SUPER HERO Workout.
I am super excited about it, and so I thought that it would be a good idea to start the week off with a fun discussion that would allow us to talk about everything related to superheroes in a way that we can all relate to, and which related to the program: movies.
Since SHW is, in large part, designed to help you look like a Super Hero on the big screen, it made perfect sense to start with off by talking about a new movie based on a comic here.
To that end, my plan was to see the latest Super Hero movie and write a blog post about how it related to life, fitness, and everything in between.
My plan was clever.
My plan was well thought out.
My plan was…foiled. Curses!
Yes. Foiled. Because although my plan was perfectly executed, it failed…because the movie itself failed.
This weekend, I saw the new Spider-man movie. Now, it’s called The Amazing Spider-Man, but really, I think it’s a fair statement that a more appropriate moniker would have been The Mediocre Spider-Man. Another way of going would be the Meh Spider-Man. Or I guess, most appropriately, the I mean, I Guess if You’re Not Doing Anything Else and Just Feel Like Seeing a Movie Spider-Man.
Are you getting that I didn’t really enjoy the movie? Unfortunately, that was the case…and that ruined my day. Now, before I go on a rambling diatribe about why Spider-Man was a lousy movie, I want to give you some context so that you can understand why this is worthy of a blog post.
You see, I just hate when super hero movies are bad. It really, really bothers me…because Super Heroes are really, really important to me.
My obsession with superheroes has guided me for much of my life. From the time I was a just a wittle –bitty baby Roman, from the moment I could comprehend what superheroes were, I wanted to be one—and that was pretty damn early in my life. It started at about four years old.
Photo evidence below:
I have always been so completely drawn inspired by the very idea of what being a super hero mean: the idea of being larger than life, stronger than anyone else; the idea of being able to do things that others could not; the idea of having powers…and using them for the greater good, for something beyond yourself.
This manifested itself in everything I did and was involved in: first reading comics, which in turn influenced books I read and he cartoons that I watched (including the 90’s era X-men, which I to this day posit is one of the greatest cartoons of all time).
Super Heroes even influenced the way I celebrated my birthday, for years.
For my fifth birthday, I had a Batman cake:
Pretty cool, right? Well, not as cool as my sixth birthday, when I had a Superman cake.
Firstly, let’s appreciate that my mother baked and decorated those cakes—hats off to Momma Roman. Let’s also just acknowledge that this trend would continue for another four years, and would culminate with a Wolverine cake on my 10th birthday. (Sorry, couldn’t find pics.)
It didn’t stop at books and birthday cakes; as I’ve mentioned a few times in my previous writing, super heroes were one of the sources I drew inspiration from when I first began my fitness journey—wanting to look like a super hero is a feeling that pulled me into the gym, and one that has never really left.
And so, now that you know a bit about my history, as we begin superhero week, you understand why I find super heroes so magical, and why, when this doesn’t apply to Superhero movies, I get upset.
For the most part, Hollywood has done a really great job.
I think that, particularly a number of superhero movies have been standout as great movies – not just great superhero movies. For example, the very first X-Men movie, the Blade trilogy. Two of my favorites were the Sam Raimi interpretations of Spider-man. The first two were not just great superhero movies, but they were great movies overall.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with the new Spider-man movie. This makes even more upset, since Spidey has always been one of my favorite characters—and that’s what makes today’s post so hard to write.
Let me start by saying, right off that bat, that I saw The Amazing Spider-man with a completely open mind. Like all comic nerds, I watched the trailers, got drawn into the lead up of the marketing, and was pumped for the movie.
Now, while I was thoroughly disappointed, I would never say, “don’t see this movie.” Firstly, if you said that to me, I’d see it anyway, because it’s fucking Spider-man and I can’t not see it. I expect you’re the same way.
Secondly, as I mentioned, even though it’s a terrible Superhero movie, it still has a guy with super powers, a hot girl, violence, and explosion; so, really, why not?
With that said, let’s move on to the main event.
(NOTE – for those of you who haven’t seen it, I have attempted to avoid spoilers; however, if you’re gonna be all whiney about a possible plot points being given away in a post about why a movie is bad, well, perhaps you should rethink your decision.)
I really, really hate to be making this argument. I do. I never wanted to one of those meatheads in the movie theater looking at an actor on screen—someone who is doing a job and has mastered a skill in a way far beyond me—and judging them for not hitting the gym.
Speaking generally, I have always been of the mind that I’d rather see a movie starring good actor to with a less than awesome physique than a less than awesome actor with a great physique. I just think that makes for better films.
And the best of both worlds, of course, is when a good actor develops his body a bit and actually looks the part—and sometimes, the role really does require that to sell both the character and the movie as a whole. This is usually the case with Super Hero movies.
Developed physiques are required to complete the package, to fulfill the promise. When I read comic books when I was a kid, I was inspired by their physiques – I wanted to look like Batman, or Superman, or Wolverine. While I realize now that those were nearly impossible goals, I still believe there’s something pristine about the projection of an ideal physical that you want to strive for.
One of the things I have liked about superhero movies, especially the more recent few, is how this has been projected on the screen; another facet to Superhero movies that has become important, and inspires both feeling and discussion: actors get in pretty amazing shape for these movies. I should know; I help them do it.
Unfortunately, Andrew Garfield didn’t get the memo.
Physically, Garfield is simply doesn’t bring to mind a superhero; incredibly skinny and a bit gawky. Now, I’ll admit that in the newer version of the comics, particularly the Ultimate storyline, Parker is presented as sort of a gangly kid. And in general, Spider-Man has never been as large as characters like Thor. However, this goes beyond just looking a bit too thin—it crosses the line and begins to make the character seem less realistic.
As a hero, he should be physically inspiring, and he should look like he has some muscle and can actually compete with villains. In this interpretation, he is not inspiring or intimidating.
As an actor, it immediately implies Garfield’s lack of dedication to the role and his craft.
This is annoying to me because I know how hard other actors work to fill out their costumes. Just sticking with Spider-Man, back in 2002,Toby McGuire, who is traditionally 130 pounds, got pretty jacked for his role as the web-slinger. He didn’t get so enormous that it stopped making sense for the character, but went out of his way to kick ass and get in shape for his shirtless scene. It was a thing.
Not only did McGuire look the part, but he got a lot of attention for the transformation—and in turn, inspired people in a completely different way. And this is the real issue with Garfield’s lack of physical development; his complete lack of physicality: not only does it damage the character and the story, but it removes inspiration…and that’s one of the most important things about superheroes.
Again, would rather have a good actor than someone who got the part because they’re in good shape…I just found this disappointing. It was a terrible remake for that reason among many others.
Garfield really should’ve at least gone through The SUPER HERO Workout.
Probably the most significant aspect of any superhero story is the origin on the character—how did he come to be? How did he acquire his powers? The circumstances through which the hero becomes more than a man are important, for they set the tone for the perception of the character.
If the circumstances are not relatable, it is difficult to relate to the character; for example, Superman is widely considered to be the most untreatable superhero—so much so that he is considered “boring.”
The reason for this is twofold: firstly, Superman is essentially godlike, and most people can’t relate to being a god. Secondly, and more relevant to this conversation, is that Superman didn’t have to earn or acquire his powers, but was simply born with them. His entire spectrum of abilities comes from the yellow sun; all he had to do was show up.
We generally can’t relate to the idea of being born with so much handed to us, let alone everything that superman has. Think about it; in addition to being the strongest and fastest guy on the planet, who can also fly, and just happens to be invincible…he also happens to have been blessed with exceptional good looks, but human standards. Oh, and the people who found him are a perfect family. Hard to relate, right?
Now, if you look at other superheroes, the more relatable ones, you’ll see that one of the hallmarks of the superhero origin story is that there powers come as a result of a set of circumstances that they generally do not seek or cannot control. In many cases, they discover their powers through no fault of their own, or are exposed to something through no fault of their own that encourages them to seek power.
Additionally, many superheroes have their origin occur in a way that brings out the best in them—but that something was already there. Steve Rogers was already brace, intelligent honorable and resourceful—he was great internally; the supersoldier serum he was exposed to allowed him to become great externally and become Captain America.
Along similar lines, depending on which version of the comics you’re following, Bruce Banner used his own body to shield someone else’s, and was exposed to the high doses of Gamma radiation that turned him into the Hulk.
Well, let’s look at these concepts as they apply to Spider-Man.
In the originally Spider-Man story, Peter Parker is hanging out at a science fair and is bit by a radioactive spider. This much you have seen in the every of renditions of the story…until The Amazing Spider-Man, that is; in this version of the origin story, Peter is still bitten by an enhanced spider—that much remains unchanged. What IS changed is the situation when he’s bitten.
Rather than hanging out at a science fair, Parker is in the Oscorp building. As story changes go, this much makes sense; what doesn’t sit well with me is how Peter runs into the fated Arachnid.
Instead of getting bit because he simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…he forced his way into the wrong place. Or, if you’ll forgive the spoiler alerts—he was snooping around. Not just snooping: breaking and entering.
That isn’t a joke or exaggeration. Peter literally breaks into a lab, whereupon he encounters and is bit by the powerful spider. He comes to his powers through underhanded means – and that is not inspiring, it’s awful. While I’ll mention that he was searching for clues about his parents, those who would receive power for justice do not get it because they’re breaking and entering.
Of course, to some of you, this may seem like a small thing. And certainly, I understand that they are within their rights to change the origin story a bit. That’s fine. However, while I wouldn’t consider myself a purist, as long time fan of comic books in general and Spider-man in specific, I really found myself rankled, at the change itself. The idea that his encounter came as the result of a negative trait is offensive to me on some nerdy level that I can’t full articulate.
In comic books, superheroes almost always get their power from no fault of their own; they are not seeking them, and just happened to be part of an event that changes them.
On the other hand, there are origin stories of those who are seeking something for personal use and wind up with powers…they are usually villains. Anytime a power is acquired as the result of an undesirable or negative quality—greed, envy, rage, lust for power—the recipient is usually a bad guy.
Now, I’m obviously making generalizations, and on top of that I’m being a little nitpicky. Still, the change speaks to a certain shift in the interpretation of the character as a whole.
Which leads me to the next problem.
The largest issue with the movie is the way Pater Parker presented as a character. Specifically, there’s no evolution at all—he’s essentially the same guy in the beginning as he was in the end.
That in and of itself wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t such a brat.
Let me explain: in this version of the films, Peter Park isn’t a geeky science nerd who gets bullied, and then has a radical life-transformation when he becomes Spider-Man. In this version, Parker is snarky and mildly condescending, and stands up to bullies from the outset.
This makes it hard to identify with him, because, as I said, the origin story is the part where you identify with the hero. Since he’s such a pain in the ass, that’s real difficult to do.
He starts out a pain, he ends up a pain…and in between, he doesn’t really learn any lessons. Peter and Spider-Man do their thing, but there is no really aspect of glory, no apotheotic moment of realization where he understands that with great power comes responsibility.
In an effort to keep Parker from looking too “nerdy,” they made changes to the fundamentals of his character which, had they not eliminated the need for evolution, might not have hurt things that much.
From a story-telling perspective, this ruins the whole damn movie. If there is no growth, it cannot be a satisfying story; change and development is one of the reasons we drawn any sense of completion from films and books.
Unfortunately, when you hamstring your main character’s ability to connect with your audience, it pretty much ruins any chance of allowing the audience to feel drawn in.
And in addition to ruining the character…it ruins the whole damn movie. Because while a movie can survive many things, it can’t survie a main character that sucks.
Perhaps I’m being a big hard in the movie, and on Spidey himself, but sadly, the fact of the matter is that there was nothing inspiring in the film. And being inspired is what it’s all about – it’s why we look to Superheroes, and to superhero movies.
Where Spider-man failed as a movie and where the character failed as a hero is where I want you to succeed. And where I personally want to succeed, I believe that you are inspired. And inspiring.
My belief is that you really do have it in you to be the best version of yourself. I truly believe that every single person that is reading this blog is actively trying to change and to evolve—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In the movie of your life, being the same person in the beginning and the end is truly tragic, and it seems obvious to me that if you’re involved in any undertaking to change your body, you have no desire to be like this year’s version of Peter parker, no desire to be so constant and unchanging.
You don’t want to sneak around—you want to be bold, strong, fast, and capable.
I think that deep down that anyone who ever steps into the gym and attempts to change their body wants to become better (even if it’s just better looking); they want to improve their life.
And I believe that a big driving force of that is so that they can improve the lives of others.
And in short, that is heroic.